Affirmative Action—All This Turmoil For So Little?

A Chicago study on “Assessing the Impact of Eliminating Affirmative Action in Higher Education” comes to this conclusion: black and Hispanic representation at all 4-year colleges is predicted to decline modestly—by 2%—if race-neutral college admissions policies are mandated nationwide. However, race-neutral admissions are predicted to decrease minority representation at the most selective 4-year institutions by 10%.
Now, my question is this: Is it worth it?
That is, the systematic discrimination on the basis of skin color and national origin might have the benefit of increasing the political correctness of universities’ racial and ethnic mix by this, let’s face, trivial amount. And, we are then told, this trivial amount might (since the social scientists are not in agreement) have some marginal improvement in some areas of what students learn.
On the other hand, here are some of the costs of this discrimination: It is personally unfair, passes over better qualified students, and sets a disturbing legal, political, and moral precedent in allowing racial discrimination; it creates resentment; it stigmatizes the so-called beneficiaries in the eyes of their classmates, teachers, and themselves, as well as future employers, clients, and patients; it fosters a victim mindset, removes the incentive for academic excellence, and encourages separatism; it compromises the academic mission of the university and lowers the overall academic quality of the student body; it creates pressure to discriminate in grading and graduation; it breeds hypocrisy within the school; it encourages a scofflaw attitude among college officials; it mismatches students and institutions, guaranteeing failure for many of the former; it papers over the real social problem of why so many African Americans and Latinos are academically uncompetitive; and it gets states and schools involved in unsavory activities like deciding which racial and ethnic minorities will be favored and which ones not, and how much blood is needed to establish group membership.
Pencils down. The correct answer is, no, it is not worth it.

Roger Clegg

Roger Clegg is the President and General Counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity.

2 thoughts on “Affirmative Action—All This Turmoil For So Little?

  1. If it’s such a little change, then why change it? All the stuff you’re stating should either be happening or have already happened for how long we’ve had Affirmative Action around for. People are educated in many different ways not just in math, science and any other subject that can be put on a standardized test. You could be destroying people’s opportunity to go to school and expand their creativity. How can you claim to fight for equal opportunity when over 80% of the campus is white? Everyone deserves an education based on all things they do not just test scores.

  2. Excellent article. I enjoyed the rant at the end on the costs of discrimination.
    I say it creates not just resentment, but cynicism. It teaches that politics trumps principles.
    What’s more, it teaches that discrimination is acceptable, a lesson that could backfire disastrously. Indeed, it may already be backfiring, considering the overt antisemitism seen on campuses these days.
    But your observation that “it papers over the real social problem of why so many African Americans and Latinos are academically uncompetitive” is particularly astute. Preferential treatment is like wearing a raincoat indoors in lieu of repairing the roof.

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